Air France Becomes First Airline To Retire All A380s

Filed Under: Air France

Air France has just made an announcement that’s not unexpected, but is still sad as an aviation geek.

Air France retiring A380s effective immediately

Air France has just revealed that they’re retiring their fleet of Airbus A380s effective immediately. This makes Air France the world’s first A380 operator to retire their entire fleet of the super jumbos.

As it’s described, this fits into the Air France-KLM Group’s simplification strategy of making the fleet more competitive, by focusing on modern, high-performance aircraft with a significantly improved environmental footprint, like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

Air France originally had 10 A380s, though the airline retired the first A380 back in late 2019. Of the remaining nine A380s, five are owned by Air France or on finance lease, while four are on operating lease.

The phase-out write down of this is estimated at 500 million EUR, and will be booked in the second quarter of 2020 as a non-current cost/expense.

Air France is focused on planes like the A350 going forward

Air France was supposed to retire A380s in 2022

Even prior to today’s announce, Air France was already on track to become the first airline in the world to retire all A380s.

In mid-2019 Air France announced plans to retire all A380s by the end of 2022.

Unfortunately this is part of a larger shift in the industry. A380 production is ending in 2021, and even before this pandemic, Emirates was the only airline that was really in love with this plane (though now rumor has it that Emirates plans to retire dozens of A380s).

One big problem that Air France had was that their A380s had very outdated cabins, and even had angled flat seats in business class (making them the only airline in the world to not have flat beds in business class on A380s).

Refreshing a single plane would cost 45 million EUR, and spending that kind of money on planes that were going to be retired sooner rather than later simply didn’t make sense. The airline also had reliability issues with the A380, and there were a very limited number of routes where they could fill these planes profitably.

Add in the unprecedented drop in demand, and retiring the A380s right now makes perfect sense.

Air France’s A380s featured outdated first class seats

Bottom line

It’s a sad but not unexpected day for the A380. Air France has become the first airline in the world to retire all A380s, which means the airline has moved forward the timeline by about 2.5 years. And to think the A380s were only an average of about nine years old…

I think it goes without saying that other airlines will reduce their A380 fleets as a result of the current pandemic, though now the big question is if any other airlines will retire the aircraft type altogether.

What do you make of Air France retiring the A380, and do you think any other airlines will retire all A380s?

Comments
  1. The saddest part of the whole demise of the A380 is that it has virtually no use whatsoever on the second hand market. At the very least 747-400’s and aging 777’s have a market for freight carriers. Nor is there much use in charter markets. Hifly, I guess, notwithstanding.

    Hard to believe, but the majority of these planes that are only a few years old will end up being scrapped.

  2. In hindsight, seems like a poor design design to not make it convertible to a freighter. I hope the cost savings to Airbus were significant and I hope the buyers got a discount off list for the poor resale value.

  3. Now that there are a lot of second hand A380 on the market I can’t wait to see the first private A380 ACJ.

  4. Too bad- had my first A380 ride just last summer on an AF plane. Pretty great experience in the upstairs economy cabin. Super quiet and smooth the whole way.

  5. For me this is just so sad; I am glad I was able to ride on one at least one (Economy in KE with 34-35″ pitch, yes please!)

    Some may say it’s ugly, not as cool as the 747, whatever… I’m also glad that this A380 even existed

  6. Is there a reason why the 747 is seeing a resurgence in freighter operations, but as far as I can tell, A380s have not been similarly repurposed?

  7. The Premium Economy of those AF A380 was pretty great, especially window seat with a HUGE dedicated storage compatment… Sad story indeed, but expected nontheless

  8. @Jake..apparently it’s something to do with design and how it relates to weight and volume. It apparently can carry 60% more volume but only 28% more weight than a 747. Someone else might be able to better explain as math is hard!

  9. @Stuart

    Used 777 doesn’t really have a market for freighter conversion yet. It is way to costly and subpar performance compared to 777F.

    @Jake

    I don’t think the 747 is seeing resurgence either might be just overall demand in freight increases. If I were to predict, we will be seeing less freighter aircraft. As newer planes, especially the 77W, have large cargo capabilities and range they can fulfill cargo demand.
    As for the A380, I don’t think there is much demand for large size cargo that 777F cannot handle. Given the number of A380 built, I might not be cost effective to even start a conversion project. It’s not as simple as taking seats out and we have a cargo plane.

  10. Makes me forget about how I need to act fast to fly on the A380 for every airline.

    Still missing QF, MH, BA, EY, and HiFly. I don’t really count the last but the rest won’t be flying soon.

  11. Sad for me as I expected my flight in November to be my last A380 flight. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to settle for a much better business class instead…

  12. I have an AF A380 flight booked in October. What aircraft will they be using instead? Am I guaranteed a lie-flat seat in business class now?

  13. @eskimo. I hear ya but not so sure about the freight market being weakend. I say this given that before the pandemic there was predicted to be a significant shortage of freighter aircraft around the world in 2022. Our first reaction might be to think that this is no longer the case. But, freight seems still not to be affected. Airlines are retrofitting passenger planes to carry medical supplies etc, – even if just tied into seats. Also a friend of mine manages the logistics of huge cargo shipments of computer parts moving around the world. His problems are still the same…not enough aircraft to move all the components he has to transport and bidding wars are ensuing between companies to reserve aircraft.

  14. Lucky, I still remember your April Fools day joke years ago when you posted a photo of the AF first class cabin (where we all thought you’re finally flying La Premiere!)
    I’ll miss the AF A380. I’m grateful to have flown in all of its cabin classes and my favorite seat in economy was upper deck 88A (bulkhead seat with the extra compartment space by the window.) I had a flight on this double decker JFK-CDG last month but obviously it was canceled.

  15. I enjoyed my two Business Class flights on Air France A380’s – despite the fact that the seats didn’t fully recline. And I’ll miss seeing this impressive-looking aircraft (which looks terrific in Air France’s livery).

    But in March I flew Business Class from Paris to Toronto on the A350 and found it to be superior to the double-decker. In fact, I liked the A350 so much I’ll be choosing to fly one to and from Paris whenever possible.

  16. Thanks to the days when frequently flyer programs were more generous I was lucky enough to fly BA, Etihad and Qantas A380’s in F cabins. Taking a shower on an A380 was a memorable experience!

  17. Nothing surprising here. Air France was going to retire the A380 by 2021 and had already halved the fleet before COVID19. The planes are maintenance queens, too expensive to upgrade to the updated cabins, and don’t quite fit the AF network. Sad to see them go. Flew in one exactly a year ago from JFK to CDG and it was a pleasant experience.

  18. I think there is another quite big consequence: it’s a huge capacity reduction for La Première, with potentially 81 seats less per day. I can’t remember how many 777 are equipped with La Première, but it really makes me wonder what’s going to happen to the lounge and legendary ground services in CDG.

  19. @ Clem.
    I wouldn’t worry about capacity.
    We might go back to the old system of more flights per day. I monitor my favorite routes and as the 380 came on board I observed the airline cut the number of daily flights.

  20. What a shame. always seemed like the 747-800 would have been the way to go instead of the A380.

  21. If I am not mistaken, they can really modify the 747 frame to resemble an original freighter 747 which has the entire front end fold open. Freighters, like all aircraft, only earn revenue while flying. time saved loading really counts.
    That is one of the reasons the cockpit is so high.

  22. Goodbye AFa380. As a large and broad man who likes to talk to his wife while flying, I much preferred these unfashionable wide and Spacious business and premium seats onboard the older AF products, to the new totally cocooned coffin coat-hanger style that people seem to love today.

  23. So to recap, EK is retiring forty A380. Air France 9 as one was already gone some time back. I am sure many others will follow. But my question is one: who will eventually take them over? I mean if these prime airline can’t make any use of them, who will? Unless some cargo air freighter can get them for peanuts, convert and use them, then it would make sense.

  24. @Stuart

    I guess you misunderstood. The freight market isn’t weaker, it is stronger. But what also follow is the cargo space that comes with the passenger planes. Is it enough, like your friend said, today it still isn’t. They even fly empty passengers just to get cargo around. It’s fair to assume more than 50% of planes flying back in early April are cargo.
    But the longer trend would be less demand for new dedicated freighter, which brings us back to my response of why there isn’t much demand for a 777 freighter conversion. Don’t forget the DC-8 still carries cargo today, that’s 60 years!!!. So no need for new fritters as the many of the old ones are still capable too.
    Again this is my thoughts pre COVID-19, with every airline downsizing, no one really knows how it will go.

  25. Thank god they get rid of these A380s; horrible business class seats and obviously first class seat can’t compare to 777-300.

  26. I really hope they won’t stop with La Premiere on the 777 of Air France, it would be such a loss of an amazing product.

  27. That’s truly unfortunate. Only a few of the 773’s have a first class cabin–and four versus nine seats.
    I wonder what this will mean for the CDG F Lounge as well–quite a few less total possible passengers daily…

  28. @Donato
    So what I meant is that Air France has a very elaborated product for La Premiere, which is their first class. They had 9 first class seats per A380, and then they have 4 on a subset of their 777-300 fleet – I’m not sure how many. But either way it represents a huge decrease of capacity specifically for First Class, which is a minor impact for most people, but wondering what will happen to their ground services and lounges given that decrease.

  29. About time. Last time I was on a AF A 380 in December 2017, it was a flying piece of junk already.

  30. Airbus has a habit of building the wrong airplanes at the wrong time. It’s a political company votes not profits are the main objectives. The A340 and A 380 are marketing failures. I’m glad I’m not a European taxpayer paying for the losses. The first attempt at a 787 competitor was also awful and it was rejected by many potential customers. Bad idea to have politicians running any business.

  31. I agree with most. Flew the AF A380 from CDG to JFK last May in Biz. What a disappointment!! Flew the newer AF A330 on the outbound flight from DFW to CDG and despite the 2-2-2 config in biz it was much better.

  32. I ended up surprising my dad with La Premiere tickets on an AF A380 years ago and he still raves about our experience. While the seats and video displays were no comparison to those in the 777, there’s nothing that compares to having the purser tell you that the entire front cabin of an A380 is yours for 10 hours. Such a treat! AF A380, you will be missed!

  33. With only 250 airframes and staggering complexity, I can’t imagine this type finding a secondary market. The cost on spare parts alone would sink the budget of any non-state owned airline. If you’re a small airline and want a “statement” aircraft, why would you not buy a cheap used 747, which is beautiful. An A380 is not. I’d rather have an old Jaguar E-type in my driveway than a Pontiac Aztek.

  34. @Clem
    I shared your concern when I heard of the A380’s immediate retirement. I’m saving to surprise my mother and sister with a trip in La Première next spring. (They think I’m flying them economy.) I’m afraid the lounge at CDG will be reduced or eliminated, other ground services may be cut and prices may still go up due to higher demand for a limited supply. If any of these things happen, I’ll have to reconsider. It may sound silly, but I was so excited for the trip.

  35. @Lucky, AF is showing CDG-LAX flights on the A380 as far out as Feb 2021. Was the decision to retire the A380s postponed?

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *